Sunday, August 20, 2006

On the road through China

We completed our classes this past Friday. Though clich├ęd, time sure flies! It's difficult to believe that the six weeks of classes have gone by. We bid farewell to our teachers and some of the staff as well as other students, with whom we've become quite acquainted. We will surely miss them, and we plan to try to stay in touch with some of them.

This past week, we went with Starla's parents to the Great Wall. We went on a weekday and early in the morning, and the wall was still rather crowded. We were blessed with a beautiful bright sunny day, and we were able to see the Wall snake across mountain tops far into the distance. It was well worth the rather bad sunburn that Starla and I suffered, from which we're still peeling.

On Saturday, we also said goodbye to my mother as Starla, her parents, and I began our two week tour of central China.

We flew bright and early Saturday morning from Beijing to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan (Szechuan) Province in central China, famed for its spicy food and tea houses. We're putting our newly improved Chinese to good use, though we're finding that the Sichuan dialect is still nearly un-understandable, and the accented Mandarin of most of the local people rather challenging.

We've toured the Chengdu area these past two days, including a couple of local parks dedicated to some historical figures such as the famed Chinese poet Du Fu from the Tang dynasty (around 700 AD) as well as a little town that still has some Qing dynasty (the last dynasty, whose reign ended in 1911) era architecture. Tomorrow, we plan to visit the giant pandas at a local panda breeding and research center, as well as see the largest Buddha carving in the world at Leshan. We hope we brought enough film! Until next time...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Starla's parents arrived

Starla's parents arrived safely in Beijing despite the terror threat on Thursday.

On Friday, they visited a couple of local tour spots with my mom and a family friend. On Saturday, I took them to a couple of historical parks. These were former imperial gardens or residences during China's dynastic period that were once off-limits to regular citizens. Starla was not feeling well and so she stayed home. On Sunday, the four of us visited a Taoist (Daoist) temple in which the air was filled with the smell of burning incense. We then went to a popular flea market that was way too crowded. In the evening, we met up with my mom and went to Lao She Teahouse for a series of traditional Chinese entertainment shows that included acrobatics, magic, Beijing Opera, Kungfu demonstrations, all of which was accompanied by tea and snacks. It was a fun time.

Today (Monday), Starla's parents are visiting the Forbidden City with my mom, while Starla and I are back to classes. The weather remains either hot or rainy, and humid regardless. We were originally planning to visit the Great Wall today, but the forecast called for rain, and we didn't want to repeat our trip 2 years ago when we could not see much of the Wall due to fog. Hopefully, the weather will clear up later this week.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Some photos added

I've added a few photos to various blog entries. Enjoy. This one is of the bicycles parked behind the building where we take classes. Though more and more people own cars now and the roads are incredibly congested, bicycles, along with scooters and mopeds, remain one of the main modes of transportation for Chinese people.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

A bit of excitement

There was a bit of nailbiting this past weekend.

On Saturday, we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. While eating, Starla began having an allergic reaction to something we ate. Initially we thought that she may be reacting to the several smokers nearby, but when the itching didn't stop after going outside for a while, we feared a food allergy. We rushed to the nearby China-Japan Friendship Hospital, which apparently has an international outpatient clinic in which all forms are in both Chinese and English, and all physicians speak English (and I'm guessing, Japanese).

While waiting, Starla began feeling better, and things cleared up soon after she took the doctor's prescription. Since the reaction was came and went rather fast, we suspect that it was either the fruit juice we had with dinner or possibly the fish and shrimp dishes. However, it's not quite definitive since she's had all of those things before and allergies are hard to pinpoint.

Other than that, we've been fortunate to have been having comparatively cool weather here in Beijing, with temperatures rarely topping 90 degrees, which from what I understand, is a major concern Stateside. We are, however, having a lot of rainfall. According to one news report this week, this is the rainiest summer in Beijing in 5 years. It seems to rain heavily one day, then hot and humid the next day, combining into one wet cycle. The humidity is staying as high as the temperatures, with people reporting interference with electronic devices. We were at this one place where the staff had to use a blow dryer to dry a keycard lock before the keycard would work to open a door. The below photo is a typical hazy day as viewed from the building where we hold classes.

Classes are going fairly well as we are going through our fourth week of classes. We're learning a lot, and probably forgetting a lot, too.